The Text Connections We Need to Be Making by Liz Garden
I remember when I was in first grade; I spent more time in the school library than I did in my classroom. It’s true. My teacher, Mr. Page, would send me to read in the library because I didn’t fit into the blue, red, or green reading group. And so I spent my days devouring books, curled up in a corner of the library, while the rest of my class slowly moved through the boring, leveled readers that were mostly only good at sucking the life out of books and reading.
Fast forward twenty years, and I remember as a second grade teacher, making sure to have a classroom library in my room that had books of every level and interest. Students weren’t sent out of my room to read by themselves in the school library. Instead they were given time to devour books and hopefully develop a love of reading. I let them read what interested them, and if I didn’t have books that matched their interest, then I went and found more books. I encouraged discussion about the characters, I taught them to infer, I conferred with them, and I made sure my students were making texts connections.
Fast forward another ten years, to today, when I went into two different second grade classrooms to read the book I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness and practice breathing and meditation. I can’t help but think about what a different world we are living in. When I was spending my days as a seven year old in the school library, I was also living in a time when I could walk home for lunch and then walk back to school by myself…as a first grader! After school, we played outside until it was dark. I remember having tornado drills, but we had certainly never heard of lockdown drills. I don’t remember friends being in therapy and friends being medicated for anxiety. I don’t remember worrying that an intruder with a gun might come into my school. It was a different world back then.
While I am glad that the way we teach literacy has changed from when I was a first grader, I am sad that so much else has changed for our young readers. Our students have to deal with the outside world while trying to learn to read. Today’s first graders are experiencing stress, anxiety, and violence in the world, along with loosing a tooth, choosing friends on the playground, and collecting Pokemon cards. Growing up has suddenly become so much harder.
I think about how we used to want students to make connections to texts. We wanted them to figure out a way to make a personal connection to the text in order to better understand what they were reading. I know we still encourage students to figure out how they can connect to the book. However, considering everything going on in the world right now, I think we need to be making some different kinds of text connections. I don’t think we should be having students making connections to texts. I think we need to be making the connections. We need to connect texts to our students. Our kids have so much going on around them; let’s use books to help them navigate this crazy life we are all experiencing.
Just the other day, I was giving someone a tour of our school and as we stopped to admire the school library, the person asked me my thoughts on keeping actual books versus moving to devices and online reading. In my head, I was screaming at the person that I would never get rid of books! But what came out of my mouth was much more calm. We need books. Our kids need books. We need books in our school libraries and in our classrooms. We need to be connecting kids to books.
There are so many amazing picture books and chapter books being written every day. We need to get these books into the hands of our students. Whether it’s a book about kindness, such as We’re All Wonders by RJ Palacio or a book about loss, such as The Memory String by Eve Bunting. Whether it’s a book about taking risks, such as The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett or a book about friendship, such as Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. Whether it’s a tough, but relevant read like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or Katherine Applegate’s new book, Wishtree that takes on the topic of anti-Muslim bigotry. Our kids need all kinds of books. And we need to be the ones to connect them to those books. More than ever before, our kids are learning to read while also learning to live in this crazy, mixed up world. We might not feel like we can change what is happening in the world around us, but we are fortunate that we get to help mold future minds. And those future minds, they will be the ones to change our world. Go connect a child to a book today.
Liz Garden is the principal of the Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, MA. She has been an administrator for nine years and taught at various levels for eleven years. She blogs regularly for her staff at www.floromondaymorningmusings.blogspot.com as well as for a group she helped form, www.momsasprincipals.wordpress.com. Liz has presented about her love of reading at the MA Reading Association conference and the NAESP Conference. When she is not molding future minds as an instructional leader, she is dealing with her reading addiction, keeping Amazon in business, listening to her musician husband sing, and chasing around her toddler, Emerson! You can connect with Liz on Twitter @PrincipalGarden and on Voxer @PrincipalGarden.
Loved your post, I too would never get rid of my books. I’m not a big fan of reading on an electronic device. It doesn’t give me the same satisfaction of reading a book, on my lap with a cup of coffee.
Hubby and I have three girls, and whole our oldest kids LOVE to read, my hyper child is not a fan of books. She loves to buy them, but then will not finish them. She enjoys the graphic novels at her school and her current English Teacher has been trying to help her discover books that she can enjoy. She just does not have the patience to get involved in a book.
My oldest will devour books. She is in grade 12 and applying for Universities now. Think of a career in journalism. She writes beautifully.
Enjoying your blog!
My mother taught me to read before I attended 1st grade so I was bored to tears with Dick and Jane for a year. In second grade, Mrs. Braun sent me across the hall to borrow from another classroom library, and I have been forever grateful to her.
Yep, I used to walk across the school grounds to a 3rd grade classroom every time my kindergarten class did reading (otherwise I’d yell out the answers when our teacher asked what something said).
While I think our children have different challenges than they used to, I don’t think they’re necessarily worse. I think it’s good that some children are being treated for the anxiety they’ve always had. Breathing and meditation are great to learn. I hope you’re not encountering any of the super-conservative Christians who might think that’s “religion”.
Also, I agree that physical books have some inherent differences from digital books, and many books aren’t available in digital form, but there are definite advantages to e-readers as well. I certainly don’t want to get rid of paper books, but with the exception of “Enemy Pie”, which I’ve heard great things about, all of the books you mentioned in your last paragraph have Kindle editions. Meaning that a parent could keep them all on one tablet at the same time, without increasing the weight that they carry around. And the kids won’t tear the pages, and they won’t get misplaced, and they can be taken on vacation, etc. Books are wonderful in every format, for different reasons. And maybe someday we’ll move farther toward digital libraries than we are now. Overdrive is amazing for budget-conscious book lovers. And who knows what the libraries our children visit as parents and grandparents will look like. Ours are certainly different from our parents’.
Thank you for you post. Beautifully written and a wonderful reminder of the importance of keeping access, choice and incorporating the time to read at school for our students.
I teach at three schools and I don’t think any of my principals have read a children’s book in years. Much less, see the importance of encouraging student choice in reading by being a reader themselves. Your presence and understanding of current literature must be so exciting for your students and the teachers who teach them.
Yikes! Maybe you should start slipping some picture books under the door to their office. 😉
Liz, this is fabulous! I live in Groton and teach at Groton Community School – with the same passion for reading that you have. I’m so glad that your post is shared here. I look forward to reading your blog. -Jennie Fitzkee-
Thanks Jennie! Small world, glad you have the same passion for reading!
Yes, it is a small world, Liz. I’ll have to invite you to be a guest reader in my class. Good to hear from you. Love our passion for reading, and know we’re making a difference.
Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
Read this important re-blog so you can finally arrive at these words:
“We might not feel like we can change what is happening in the world around us, but we are fortunate that we get to help mold future minds. And those future minds, they will be the ones to change our world. Go connect a child to a book today.”